3-Day Road Trip to Mount Shasta

What you will find in this post?

  1. How to plan a 3-day road trip to places in and around Mt. Shasta?
  2. I have shared details about our trip
  3. My notes for your next trip

We did a 3-day road trip to places in and around Mount Shasta for the Labor Day Weekend. We live in the Silicon Valley area of California and Mount Shasta is close to 4-4.5 hours drive from my home. We stayed at Best Western Plus Twin View Inns and Suits at Redding for 2 nights. We booked it via costco.

Day 1, Lake Shasta Caverns:

We left home after breakfast at 08:30 am on saturday. The traffic wasn’t that bad considering its a long weekend. We reached Redding around 12:30 pm. We drove straight to Lake Shasta Caverns where the spectacular network of caves with limestone structure is hidden inside that mountain. The tickets are priced at $20 per adult & kids less than 5 years are free. It takes 2 hours for the whole experience. The visit to caverns starts with a 15 minute boat ride followed by 15 minutes scenic bus ride and finally you get to the cave entrance. It reminded me of my family trip to Arakku Valley and Boro caves in Vishakapatnam district. My kids enjoyed it as volunteers entertained them by pointing to different sections of the caves using flashlight and asked them to locate a santa claus, tiger and huge turkey. It was a hot day but the temperature inside was cooler than the outside so we made sure to walk around it couple of times and stay longer inside the caverns. The volunteers stationed at different sections of the caverns were so knowledgeable and explained to us the details about the formation of limestone. My kids were tired by the end of this trip so we decided to head back to the hotel and call it a night. We picked dinner on our drive back.




Lake Shasta Caverns


Day 2, Burney Falls and Lassen Volcanic National Park:

  1. After breakfast, we left for Burney falls. It was close to an hour from Redding. On the way we stopped at  Station Cafe at Montgomery Creek to grab some food for the picnic at Burney Falls. The hike to the falls should be little more than a mile from the parking lot. My kids walked all through there. Some parents carried stroller but there are stairs so be prepared to lift and move the stroller along the way. We even saw lot of elders with hiking poles so the walk to the falls is pretty manageable. On the way to the falls, there is small bridge and we walked down to wet our legs in the flowing stream. My kids loved walking and balancing on the rocks to get to a comfortable spot to sit and dip their legs in the ice cold water. After a brief stop there, we walked further to see the falls. There is a viewing area at the top and those interested to reach the falls, can proceed further. We walked down with more excitement to see the most beautiful waterfall ever. Again I was transported to my childhood trips to Courtrallam waterfalls in South India. The only difference was that the water in Burney falls were super cold. This is a must see water fall for nature lovers. Sidd and I sat on the rock for a long time just to watch the water. We didn’t speak a word when we sat to admire the gushing water. The experience was so calming to my mind.
  2. We left Burney falls around 2 PM and drove to Lassen Volcanic National Park. The drive time was close to 1 hour. The entrance fee is $20 and it holds good for a week. You can also camp there. We drove around the entire park and stopped at Summit Lake North campground to play in the lake and enjoy the silence and do some bird watching. After that we drove through the scenic road and stopped at Sulphur Works to take a look at the mud pots. Finally we stopped by a beautiful creek and spent some time running around the vast space which was interupted with creeks on either side. My kids had a blast. Lassen National Park is at an elevation so we have to drive through the winding roads. Come prepared with plastic bags or medicines if you or your kids have tendency to throw up.We headed back to the hotel around 7.00PM after grabbing dinner on the way.

Burney Falls


Walk to Burney Falls


Summit Lake North Campground


Mud pots, Sulphur Works


Day 3, Lake Siskiyou and Shasta Fish Hatchery

    1. On the last day of our trip, we decided to spent the time on the water so we headed straight to Lake Siskiyou. The waze app took us to the hiking trails of Lake Siskiyou. So make sure you enter “Lake Siskiyou Camp Resort, 4239 West A Barr Road”. It will takes you to a nice beach area with restrooms/changing room. The entrance fee was $1 per person and kids below 5 years are free. We reached there, changed to swimming suit and played in the water for close to an hour. It was little windy and cold.
    2. After that, we went to Shasta Fish Hatchery which was 10 minutes away. There was also a museum attached to it. We spent an hour exploring the tiny musuem and kids enjoyed feeding the fishes. We were told that the trouts from there were picked by the state department and tranferred to various streams, river and lakes where people can fish. Please make sure to carry 0.25 cents to purchase fish food from the machine.

Lake Siskiyou



Lake Siskiyou


Lake Siskiyou



Shasta Fish Hatchery


Shasta Fish Hatchery

We wrapped the trip and left Mount Shasta at 3.00 PM and reached our home after multiple stops at 08:30 PM. Since we missed celebrating Vinagayar Chathurthi on 05Sep2016, I decided to offer our prayers the following day. Vinayagar is always the first god we pray to. I even have his idol at my work place. He is so dear to me 😍. As his devotee, we believe that he removes all obstacles that come our way and showers us with happiness, success and prosperity. I went to bed planning to do the prayers first this morning. We were late by a day to do the Pooja but we did offer him his favorite prasadam : sweet kozhukatai & Sundal along with idli & chutney

|Shree Vakrathunda Mahakaya Suryakoti Samaprabha Nirvighnam Kuru Me Deva Sarva-Kaaryeshu Sarvada|

Vinayagar chathurthi wishes to you all. May your life be as long as his trunk and your life be as sweet as his kozhukatai


  1. Carry cold medicines and other required medicine for yourself and your kids
  2. Pack swim suits, beach towels, sunscreen, waterbottles and sunglasses
  3. Pack tons of snacks that your kids love
  4. Fly tot for my kids to rest their legs during the road trip
  5. Kid’s favourite blankets
  6. Travel pillow
  7. Travel snacks ideas + my travel checklist (download)


Sri Lanka Trip: Day 5

Day 5 of the trip started with my favourite breakfast of appam with sambhal and fruits. It was our last day of sight seeing at Sri Lanka as some of us in our group were leaving the following day by early morning flight.
Elephant Trip
Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage

We visited this orphanage which is the home for about 60 elephants, out of which some are baby elephants found abandoned or orphaned in the wild at 11.00 AM. They were being cared, fed and trained by the wild life authorities. It was the hottest day ever but the feeding times made up for it. We saw baby elephants being bottle-fed with such huge bottles. After that we walked along the road to a river close by where all the elephants came for their daily bath. We sat for lunch at the nearby restuarant where we can see these elephants play in the water. Kids loved it.

After lunch, we walked around to shop for soveniers and was ready for our drive back to Colombo which was close to 2 hours. We rested for the night.

Rest of us spend Day 6 walking around the streets of Colombo. We ate at Shanmugas Vegetarian Restaurant before our evening flight that day. The food was delicious and you should definitely visit it if you love sambar and rasam.

Elephant Tour



How to plan a trip to Sri Lanka?

Image Source from Google

Sri Lanka is a beautiful island country located in Bay of Bengal. It is our neigboring country but I couldn’t visit it until 2009. My parents visited Sri Lanka in 2010 with their friends and they loved it so much that they joined us for our trip. We had travelers who were Indian and American citizens. So my below tips will help travelers who have American or Indian passport. We flew by Mihin Lanka and Sri Lankan Airlines. It takes 1 hour from Chennai airport to Bandaranaike International airport.

The information shared in this post is compiled from the experience I gained in our trip. I am not an expert so if you have any questions with regards to visa or travel arrangements, please contact a travel agent or Sri Lankan Consulate. I travelled with our family of 15 members between the age of 2 to 70 years old.


A visa is needed to enter Sri Lanka and it can be stamped on arrival at the airport. South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) is regional intergovernmental organization and geopolitical union in South Asia. It’s member countries are Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Maldives, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. If you are from a SAARC country, the visa charge is $15 and it is $30 for other nationals.


I travelled with my 2 kids who were less than 5 years old. Please contact their pediatrician atleast 1 month before the date of travel. I met with my primary care physician and also visited local travel clinic for my vaccinations. Anti-malaria weight based tablets were prescribed to the kids. We received it from a compound pharmacy. I also purchased bug repellant spray, Steripen UV water sanitizer tick (incase we hiked in Sri Lanka) and sunscreen. I made them wear full sleeves shirts and pants which was also washed with Sawyer clothing repellant spray. Despite this my daughter got some mosquito bites which we treated with Calamine lotion. We bought it from local pharmacy at Sri Lanka.


My kids ate what was available. I didn’t carry anything special. Since the cuisine is very similar to South India, we all ate appam, dosa, bread, tropical fruits and yogurt. I made sure they ate food that were completely cooked (ofcourse except fruits).


The national currency is Sri Lankan Rupee. We exchanged dollars for Srilankan rupees with Thomas Cook at airport. The process takes 15-20 minutes.


We stayed in different location each day as we wanted to cover Negombo, Anuradhapuram, Polonnaruwa, Kandy and Colombo.

I have written a detailed post about our trip here:

  1. Day 1 of my Sri Lanka Trip
  2. Day 2 of my Sri Lanka Trip
  3. Day 3 of my Sri Lanka Trip
  4. Day 4 of my Sri Lanka Trip
  5. Day 5 of my Sri Lanka Trip

Sri Lanka Trip: Day 4

We were all set to conquer our agenda for Day 4 of our trip at the most beautiful country Sri Lanka. Personally I loved the breakfast spread each and every day I ate appam or dosa and fresh sambal topped with shallots.

Please read about Day 1, Day 2 , Day 3 of our journey in Sri Lanka if you are planning a trip.

Day 4:

We planned to cover Dambulla Cave temple, attend a pop-up meal at Matale Heritage Centre with 25 dishes and proceed to Kandy for a cultural dance show.

Dambulla Cave Temple:

It is again a great hike. We had travellers between 2-70 years old and all of us hiked up to the temple. It will take 1-1.5 hours to reach the top. The temple was donated by King Walagambahu in the 1st century BC to Buddist Monks. Dambulla is a world heritage site. We loved walking through 5 different caves. Our travel guide first took us to the Golden Buddha Statue, Dambulla Golden temple which involved climbing about 500 steps and it is located downhill from the cave temple. We made it to the temple quite easily. We sat for sometime and then began the real hike to the top. Our kids loved it as they saw monkeys on the way. My 2 year old daughter was little tired so we took turns to carry her. My 5 year old was excited and he walked all the way to the top by himself. We carried a lot of water bottles as it was a hot summer day in early June.
Dambulla 1


Traditional Sri Lankan Lunch at Matale – Ena De Silva’s Home:

We highly recommend this meal if you are on your way to Kandy. You can enjoy the peaceful garden, talk to batik and embrodery artist and sit down for a delicious 25 dishes lunch meal. The meal was served in a beautiful location amidst trees and is located on a hill. . The craft centre is the place where local artists were making quality batik, embrodery, carpentry and brasswork. The centre’s kitchen makes the meal for the group (need to book a day in advance – Hema (+94-662222404) and we paid 2500 Srilankan rupees per head for a banquet of 25 dishes including rices, curries, chicken and fish. There is a video of the meal served at The Matale Heritage Center here by Asia

En De Silva Meal Matale 1

Ena De Silva Meal Matale 2

Susantha Spice Garden Visit:

Lastly before our drive to Kandy we stopped at an Ayurvedic Garden. A natural medicine practioner did the tour for us and it was really informative. We purchased few products at their store. Later when I googled about the place, there was lot of articles which called it a spammer. So read those articles before you go and before you make a purchase.
Medicine Center 1

Kandy Cultural Show

We wrapped the day by watching traditional Kandyan dance and fire performance by Sri Lankan dancer. It was priced at 1000 Srilankan rupees per head.

We headed to The Hotel Hill Top, Kandy for the night stay. The hotel rooms were neat but not mosquiot nets like the previous hotels we stayed.



Sri Lanka Trip : Day 3

Our travel in Sri Lanka for Summer of 2016 was fun. Hope you had a chance to read about Day 1 and Day 2.

On day 3, we were set to cover Polonnarwa, Habarana and then proceed to Sigirya Rock Fortress.

Day 3:

Coconut and Corn Snack: After breakfast, we were ready to leave for Polonnarwa at 09.00 AM. Our first stop for the day was at a coconut and corn shop on the highway. We took a short walk around the thatched shop. Kids loved seeing the paddy fields, a cow and a red auto. This reminded me of my vacation at my grandparent’s home (Cuddalore / Nellikupam).
Coconut Sri Lanka


It took close to 2 hours to reach Polonnarwa from Anuradhapuram. We had one of the most knowledgable travel guide Ben who shared lots of history and stories about the places we visited. He told us that King Vijayabahu-1 declared Polonnarwa as the capital city of Sri Lanka when he defeated Chola invaders in 1070 AD. We visited the  world heritage site to see the royal palace, the Gal Viharaya where four splendid statues of Buddha carved out of rock is present. There was also King Parakramabahu’s statue. King Parakramabahu’s reign is considered as the Golden Age of Polonnarruwa as agriculture and trade flourished in the region. He built the best irrigation system in the country and we stopped for a quick look at the Parakrama Samudraya lake built by him.
Polonnarwa 1
Polonnarwa 2
Village Food Tour:

After touring Polonnarwa, we were super hungry. This place will be the icing to cake for food lovers. We signed up for a village food meal at Habarana (Wildlife Safari) with Nilanth (+94-777-067833). The meal is arranged on traditional buffet style in a long room covered with thatched roof. The food was placed in clay pots. The meals were served on a lotus leaf placed over bamboo plate holder. The lunch comprised of red and white rice along with 6 authentic curries, papadum, chicken, fish and salad. For dessert they served farm fresh seasonal fruits. Mineral water was also served as part of the meal. We payed 750 Srilankan Rupees per person. She also did a cooking demostration for a delicious dish she made with banana flower. I shared a short video on how to cut a banana flower here.
Sri Lankan Village Food 1
Sri Lankan Village Food 2
Sri Lanka Village Food 3
Sigiriya Rock Fortress:

After a delicious lunch and the summer heat made all of our 50+ year old family members except my grandmother who is 62 years old and kids tired. So we decided to drop them at Kassapa Lionrock Hotel and just 5 of us left to hike the Sigiriya Rock Fortress. Kids spent the evening swimming at the pool and enjoyed running freely in the wide open space of the hotel. My couins, me and my grandmother were climbing the 5th century Sigiriya Rock Fortress hearing tons and tons of stories from Ben. The fortress was buildt by King Kashyappa. Here goes the story as narrated by Ben, our travel tour guide –

“Kashyapa was the eldest son to King Dhatusena. However he was not the heir to the throne as he was born to a mistress. Moggallana was the son born to the queen and he was the legal heir to the throne. Migara the commander of the king’s army had disagreement with king so he helped Kashyapa become the king. Kashyapa murdered his father by entombing him in a wall. Moggallana fled to South India fearing that Kashyapa would kill him. The people of Anuradhapuram disliked him so fearing an attack from Mogallana or  his people, Kashyapa moved his capital to Sigiriya. His palace was built on top of the Sigiriya rock and from the top of the rock he had view of the city in every direction. Finally in 495 BC Moggallana returned from South India with an army and defeated Kashyapa’s army in the land around the rock. Seeing the defeat, Kashyapa killed himself with his sowrd. Moggallana became the king.”

It is a long hike and plan to start the hike around 4-5 PM as the sunsets and temperature drops. We watched the sunset from the top of the rock and it was the most beautiful sight ever. The hike took about 2-3 hours. This is a must see spot so plan accordingly to visit them.
Sigiriya 2

Sri Lanka Trip: Day 2

Stay at Hotel Alakamanda, Anuradhapuram

We woke up early to pack the bags to leave for Anuradhapuram. The tour package included breeakfast which comprised of eggs, sausage, toast, fruits and tea/coffee. There were tons of tropical fruits like pineapple, papaya which were so tasty. Kids enjoyed a nice morning stroll around the resort that was nestled among backwaters and coconut trees. It was such a beautiful and serene place. We left for Anuradhapuram around 08:30 am. We travelled in an AC mini bus that fit our family of 14.

On our way to Anuradhapuram we visited Muneeshwaram temple at Chilaw and also a Murugan temple.

1. At the Murugan temple, we spotted a dancing peacock. Kids were so excited to see it. It did rain after 30 minutes.

Peacock 1

2. Muneeshwaram temple has a story. It is believed that after his victorious battle, Lord Rama left Ayodhya in one of Ravana’s vimana. He felt that he was being followed by brahmas this dosham as he had killed Ravana who was a Brahmin. Stories say that when he visited this place at Chilaw, Rama felt that brahmahaasthi dosham was not following him so he stopped the vimana and asked Lord Shiva for remedy. Lord Shiva blessed him and asked him to install four long and there and pray to get rid of the dosham. Since then lots of Hindu devotees flock to this temple. We were asked to light lamps as a mark of respect for your ancestors.

Scared Tree 2

We did Anuradhapuram city tour after visiting the temple. Anuradhapuram is the first capital of ancient Sri Lanka. We first went to the  It is the home for two world heritage sites. Sri Maha Bodhi (Sacred Bo-Tree) was brought as a Sapling of the tree under which prince Siddhartha attained to enlightenment and it is over 2,200 years old and is the oldest historically documented tree in the world. We walked along the entire premise where there was Brazen Palace (2nd century B.C), the 1600 stone columns we saw were all that is left of a magnificent multi-storied residence for monks.
Sacred Tree 4


Ruwanweliseya (2nd century B.C) is the most famous of all the Dagobas. It originally depicted the perfect ‘bubble shape” that modern restoration has not been able to accurately reproduce. Samadhi’ Buddha statue (4th century AD) is one of the most famous statues, depicting the Buddha in a state of ‘Samadhi’ or deep meditation. Isurumuniya rock temple (3rd century B.C) is well known for its rock carvings of ‘The Lovers’. Kuttam Pokuna – twin ponds (6th century AD) was used by the Buddhist monks as a bathing pool. Thuparama Dagoba (3rd century B.C) is the oldest Dagoba in the island, which enshrines the right collarbone of the Buddha.
Scared Tree 1

Sacred Tree 5

After that we visited Mihintale. Mihintale is a mountain peak near Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka. It is believed by Sri Lankans to be the site of a meeting between the Buddhist monk Mahinda and King Devanampiyatissa which inaugurated the presence of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. It is now a pilgrimage site, and the site of several religious monuments and abandoned structures.

Overall it was a busy day we stopped at a local restuarant for lunch. Food was excellent but little expensive. It was close to a wildlife safari. We travelled with 4 kids between the age 2-6 and they were little tired as it involved a lot of walking and climbing the stairs. We finally returned to Hotel Alakamanda at 07.00 PM. The breakfast and dinner were part of our tour package.

Sri Lanka Trip: Day 1


I just got back from a trip to Sri Lanka covering Western/ central province with my family (cousins and aunts). The travel time from Chennai is 1 hour 15 minutes. The most convenient trip ever with 4 kids on board.

We landed at Bandaranaike International Airport at Katunayake, 34 km north of Colombo, near Negombo around noon and the drove straight to Negombo, ( it translates to ” neer cozhumbu” in Tamil) . It is 35 km north of Colombu and it is a beach town famous for sea food.

Sri Lanka 2

We requested our travel guide to take us to an authentic restaurant that serves typical Sri Lanka food – the rice and curry platter. We are so glad that he found a restuant on our way to Negombo. The meal comprised of red or white rice, vegetable stir fries, lentil curry, seafood, poultry and red meat curries. The meal was served over lotus leaf which was available in abundance in Sri Lanka. In Hindu and Buddhist temples the Gods and Buddha were decorated with lotus and water lilly.
Sri Lanka 3

For me it reminded me of American Chipotle where we can pick our combination of dishes. I asked them for white rice, cabbage leaves stir fry, egg plant curry, potato masala, fish curry. We noticed that at Singhalese household yogurt / curd is not part of the main meal which is different from Tamils as we eat yogurt mixed in rice as the last dish in almost every meal. So we missed finishing off the delicious meal with dollops of yogurt.

For dessert, we tried a local flavor in ice cream. It is called Pani Cadju ( it tasted like vanilla ice cream topped with honey and nuts)
Sri Lanka 4

Within 45 minutes we reached Kumudu Valley resort which was located near the beach. We spent rest of the day walking around the resort and kids loved the beach. We ended the day by cooling ourself at the swimming pool.
Sri Lanka 1


Overall the first day at Sri Lanka was simple and relaxed. The weather was hot and humid so we kept ourself hydrated throughout the day.


Sri Lanka 6

DIY Kid’s Project – Flower Bouquets

June is almost here. May creapt upon me real fast. It’s been busy since the beginning of this year. It’s amazing. I must agree.I have learnt so much and met so many talented people along the way. Some weekends are busy with planning and cooking for our pop-up dinners while some weekends are spent with the little people we love the most – our kids. We cook, paint, color, do DIY projects and what not.

I have the interest to cook and that’s the whole driving force behind hosting the pop-ups but the whole project wouldn’t have been possible without the support of our kids. My daughter is 18 months old now. She is growing up too fast. In few months, she will start pre-school. She doesn’t scream or cry when I am gone. She is one happy girl. My 4+ year old boy is so accomodating too. He packs his back and goes on play dates when we are gone. They are truly our blessings for life.

DIY Flower Bouquet_1

DIY Flower Bouquet_2

Like every parent, our world revolves around them. I try to involve my son in every project I work on. We cook together. When I pack a egg curry, he peels the egg shells for me. When I bake, he folds the batter for me. Weekdays are packed with swimming classes, biking, trip to the park and doing Math/English worksheets. Last week, we did three DIY projects.

DIY Flower Bouquet_3

DIY Flower Bouquet_4

It was Teachers Appreciation Week. We made Indian desserts (Carrot Halwa Trifle, Mango Mousse and Banana-Semolina Balls) for his teachers and today I sent them flowers as well. We buy from our regular florist at the Farmer’s market. You can always find flowers and candles in my home. He sells them $3 a bunch and we bought 4 of that. I have a box of craft supplies in my garage. We grabbed brown wrapping paper and brown or baker’s twine from that. I picked them from Dollar store. We used plastic cling wrap, rubberbands and paper towels from the kitchen. Once you find everything, place them in the dining table and start the project with the energy to motivate and encourage your kid to participate and contribute. He studies in a private school that has 12 teachers for kids between 3-5 years age. We made 12 flower bouquets for them.

My son helped me with wrapping the wet tissue and cling wrapper. He enjoyed being a part of this DIY.

My son also made a small DIY Happy Face card over the weekend. I helped him by cutting the shapes and drew a circle and marked the eyes. All he did was colored the face with crayons. Once done, he wrote his name on the other side.  We gave this along with the flowers.

DIY Flower Bouquet_8

DIY Flower Bouquet_5

DIY Flower Bouquet_6

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

DIY FLOWER BOUQUET For Teachers Appreciation Week

Things Needed

  • Flowers
  • Plastic Cling Wrap
  • Kitchen Tissue
  • Rubberbands
  • Celophane Tape
  • Brown Wrapping Paper
  • Twine or Ribbon
  • Marker


  1. We bought the flowers on Sunday. So the first step is to keep them hydrated. Take a vase. Fill it with little water and store the flowers in it until ready to use. It will also help the flowers to bloom in couple of days. We made this bouquet to give it on Tuesday.
  2. Using a scissor, chop the stem to the length you desire. Cut the kitchen tissue into rectangles.Place the plastic wrapper on the working surface as shown in the picture. Ask your child to wet the tissue and wrap the stem. Once that’s completed, let the child wrap the plastic wrapper as well. Since it sticks really well, kids will find it easy to bring them all together tight and well sealed. Tie rubberband around it to let them stay together well. Set aside.
  3. Clean the chopped stems and leaves. Make sure there is no water in the table. Wipe them clean with a towel. Now cut the brown packing paper in the 12 squares. We did 14×14 inches. Set aside.
  4. Place the brown paper and fold it into half. Place a bunch of the tissue-cling wrapped flower at one corner and roll them tight like a cigar. Seal the end with a celophane tap. Wrap the brown paper with twine to make it look pretty. Continue to repeat the steps until you have made all the bouquets.We wrote a “Thank you” with the marker. Done!

DIY: Photoframes

You have been seeing a lot of DIY projects and ideas from Spices and Aroma. As a mother, these projects keeps my son busy and it improves his ability to concentrate on one task and at the same time, it teaches him the importance of gifting and showing love to someone. It is a win-win for mother and the kids. Prerna of Indian Simmer’s daugher made this DIY photoframe as a return gift for her birthday. I loved the idea so I decided to make it as a return gift for my daughter’s first birthday celebration. You can read about how I planned a Mexican themed birthday party here.You can find ideas for party decors, meal planning, music and free printables.

Click here to see the summary of the DIYs we did in 2014.

DIY Photoframes_3

Made by Prerna of Indian Simmer’s daughter. She gave this to my kids for her birthday.

We started with a $0.99 wooden photoframe from Michael’s. I prefer wooden as the paint will adhere to it better and I didn’t even spend the time bruising the surface with sandpaper. I grabbed self adhesive glitter alphabets and multi colored glitters from Michael’s and a bottle of smal paint from a home improvement store (home depot). It is one of the easiest project to work with a pre-schooler and trust me, my son loved it. He always helps me with paint wooden boards for my food photographs so this was a known task.  This activity is a great place to start teaching the kid to apply colors in a single stroke.

For this DIY frame, we started off by covering the work surface with used cloth or $1 table cover from dollar store and began painting the wooden frame on the top side. Once it was done, sprinkle generous amount of glitters on top. The wet paint will help the glitters to stick on the surface. Let it dry overnight. The following day tap off the excess glitters over newspaper. Now paint the back side of the frame and let it dry for 4 hours. I helped my son with grouping the self-adhesive alphabets according to each of his friend’s name. Once the frame is dry and well set, ask the kid to stick the alphabets on the frame. That’s all you are set to gift it as a holiday gift or return gift for your kid’s birthday party. We made this one for grandparents in India.

DIY Photoframes_1

DIY Photoframes for Holidays and Party Return Gift Idea

Things Needed

Instructions to make it:

  1. Locate a working place. We did this project in the garage. First spread a old bed sheet on the floor or you can use $1 table cloth from dollar store
  2. Let the kid know what the task is. Better the communication is better is the interest of the child
  3. Remove the plastic wraps around the frame and arrange them on the side. Take one at a time and ask the child to apply the paint neatly. Have baby wipes or any tissue to clean the finger before touching the bottle of glitters. We applied two layers of paint. We made 10 frame on one evening. You can do more or less depending on how occupied and interested the child is. We had 20 kids for the birthday party and we decided to do the task on 3 evenings.
  4. Place newspaper before you start sprinkling the glitters. This will help us collect and reuse the ones that didn’t stick to the paint. I poured the glitters to a bowl and let my son sprinkle on top using fingers. This makes the process faster and we need to cover the paint surface before it dries.
  5. Let it dry overnight
  6. The following day, mother or father can dust off the glitters that didn’t stick. Collect the glitters into a fresh bowl.
  7. Now ask the gift to pain the back side of the frame. Let it dry for 4 hours.
  8. Once both sides of the frame is well dried, ask the child to stick the self-adhesive alphabets with correct spelling of his friends or if you plan to stick “Happy Holidays” or whatever is planned by the parent.
  9. Tada! The most pretty frame is ready and your guests will appreciate the effort and love that went in making the personalized gift.

DIY: Lentil-Rice | Dahl-Chawal Kichdi Mix in a Jar

It’s 19Dec2014 today and we have just few more days to celebrate Christmas. We are almost there to celebrate end of the year. Santa visited my son’s school yesterday and they had PJ’s party.  Today is my son’s last working day for the year. He will on a Christmas break till Jan 4th. Since the beginning of October, I have been busy with Indian festivals, Halloween, my kid’s birthday party, Thanksgiving and Christmas. We have been making handmade gifts for our friends and family. You can see the list of easy DIY we did in the last 1 month here.

Dhal Chawal_7

I made a bowl of rice-lentil kichdi and I added a handful of soaked mung bean.

I woke up early to wrap the gifts for his teachers. I am also attaching hand written thank you cards for them. Being a working mom, I am so thankful to them. Our Indian meals are hearty and so flavorful. I always cook in a pressure cooker. I wouldn’t mind to be Hawkins or Prestige or Futura Pressure Cooker’s brand ambassador. My recipes are inspired from what my mother and grandmother cooked it. I make curries, subjiz and main dishes by adding all the ingredients, may be a quick saute, seal and cook in the pressure cooker for 15 minutes. The meal will be done while we clean the kitchen and sink. I make dahl-chawal a lot, it could be plain rice and red-yellow lentils or South Indian Bisibelebath or Dalia-Rice Kichdi. I add all the raw ingredients and cook them in the pressure cooker. So this gift jar evolved from that idea. Anyone would love one jar food mixes and it will come handy on a busy week night.  This will be a great gift for pregnant or new moms or even anyone who needs help with serving a hearty meal.

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I prepared the gift jar with dry ingredients and like me you can re-use pickle jars or buy new mason jars. It’s totally upto you. I placed 1 cup rice (Raw ponni or Basmati), 3/4 cup red lentils (masoor dahl) and 1/4 cup mung dahl directly in the jar. I like to wash my rice-lentils few times before adding to the cooker. Hence I didn’t mix any spice to it. I was cracking my head on how to place rest of the ingredients. During our growing up years, we didn’t have these fancy supermarkets where everything is packed intact in a sealed plastic bags. I remember our good old Nadar grocery stores India where the shop keeper will wrap the spices and rice in newspaper. So I packed dry onions powder, ginger-garlic powder, little chilli powder (optional) and salt in a sheet of newspaper. I wrapped it with baker’s twine to make it look pretty and added a handwritten note on top. When you pack such food jars, it is important to attach a recipe card in the gift basket. The bottle of rice-lentil, spice mix, vegetable stock cube, recipe card and a holiday greeting is ready. Time to pack them in a gift basket. I used a porcelain container. You can use either of them. Wrap it tight with transparent gift wrapper and add a cute bow on top. This idea was inspired from my good friend Sala Kannan’s Veggie Belly blog. You can find one pot one shot recipes by Rama Krishnan and United by Food Volunteers in his blog page.

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DIY: Lentil-Rice | Dahl-Chawal Kichdi Mix in a Jar

Recipe Idea: Veggie Belly Blog with my tweaks & additions

Makes: 1 jar

Things Needed for the jar

  • Clean and dry pickle bottles or mason jar
  • 1 cup Raw Ponni Rice or Basmati Rice
  • 3/4 red split peas (masoor dahl)
  • 1/4 cup moong dahl
  • 1 vegetable stock cube
  • 1/2 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon ginger powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder (optional)
  • 2 teaspoon salt (you can add more if needed)

How to cook it?


  • 1 Tomato, chopped
  • 1 Green chilly, minced
  • 1/2 cup vegetables (1 small carrot, 10 beans, handful peas or any other vegetable of your choice) – This is optional too
  • Items from the jar
  • 7 cups water
  • Cilantro to garnish

Cooking Direction

  1. Add all the ingredient (except cilantro) into a pressure cooker and cook on medium low flame for 15 minutes. Switch off the heat and let the pressure come down. Garnish with cilantro, dollop of ghee and serve.
  2. You can cook over a stove top in a pan for 30-45 minutes or you can also use a slow cooker.


  1. Without the green chilly, this dish is great for toddlers and babies above 10 months old.
  2. I pack this as lunch for us. It’s a great lunchbox recipe
  3. I highly recommend giving this as a gift to pregnancy and new moms. Even better gift them a pressure cooker.
  4. You can replace rice with cracked wheat/dalia for women with gestational diabetes or for those who arepre-diabetic.